Standing from the floor where I kneel preparing my bath I stare at myself in the mirror trying to see what it must be like to view me from the outside. Am I really as bad as I see myself ? I frown in contemplation, my eyes wandering the fleshscape of my body.
Pudgy. Chunky. Plump. Obese. Fat. Lard-assed.
My reflection stares at me with a shared malice. Round fingers run lightly over the thick ropelike scar running across my abdomen. Home liposuction failure. Lost a lot of blood. Spent months in therapy. Can’t you see we love you and what you look like doesn’t matter, Mother said. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. She’s right, it is what’s on the inside. Fat is on the inside. People aren’t blind.
I kiss my reflection with my fist shattering myself into a million glimmering pieces. I beat the wall until dust flies up from the drywall and red blood covers the millions of tiny me’s staring up from the floor. I hear the phone ringing in the other room and leave my bath behind. Alice Cooper rasps at me from my stereo as I cross the room to where the phone sits jittering. No More Mr. Nice Guy . It’s rung six times by the time I get to my bed, push the small black kitten out of the way and reach for the receiver with my bloody hand.
It’s Mother calling to just make sure everything is ok because she knows those terrible people at work have been giving you such a bad time just because you are different. I clench my other hand tightly, my nails biting into my palms as she drudges up again for me the incident I can’t forget. The laughter and the gleaming faces being one thing and all the name calling behind my back or even to my face being the other. I listen patiently to her near screaming voice coming at me through the phone, wondering why she feels it necessary to talk so loudly on the telephone. Liquid warmth runs down the inside of my wrist making me realize I how hard I had been clenching my hand and sighing I run my hand through my hair. After a while Mother feels her parental duty has been done.
“I love you, son.”, she says and I slide the receiver back into its cradle without saying goodbye before she can utter those familiar words: “…all of you”. I stand and walk away from the bed leaving the kitten lying there where I had set it down, its neck now twisted far too much to the left for nature to allow.
I close the bathroom door behind me and stare for a moment at the silver glass scattered on the floor and at all my reflections looking sadly up to me. There is a knock on the door downstairs, light and patient. It’s Karra, a girl from work, who said she wanted to come over tonight and talk to me. I told her I had other plans. Apparently she didn’t listen. In a sense one would think I should be excited about having a girl want to come over and see me, to talk to me, to even be around me. And I suppose I would be were it not for the fact I know Karra is a Bible-Thumper and is only coming over to tell me Jesus Loves You Just The Way You Are. That’s just too much to fall for. There’s just too much of me. So much even blood will not cover the sins of my rolling flesh and so I leave her knocking.
I step over the empty kerosene bottle lying on its side by the lip of the tub and into the warm wetness of the bath. The water is swirling with rainbows of color so beautiful and streaming. Heat bathes my skin reminding me of the sauna at the “fat camp” Mother had once sent me to on recommendation of my psychiatrist and of those exercise videos with the skinny women in blue leotards bouncing.
Just three more, c’mon girls FEEL THE BURN! Except I wasn’t one of the girls and wasn’t exercising but was enjoying watching the instructor bounce so nicely. I reach over and take my lighter and a cigarette from the back of the toilet. I light the cigarette slowly and inhale deep the spice of tobacco and clove before setting the lighter on the edge of the tub and exhaling. My skin is turning a deep red and I can almost feel the cellulite melting away. Almost. I puff twice on my smoke.
Just two more, girls! Feel it ! And then exhale as I lean my head back against the cool tile of the bathroom wall. I know it is time. Time for the exorcism, time to get down to what is inside so everyone can see I’m just like them. I drag deep and slow on my cigarette letting the smoke fill my heavy lungs.
Just ONE more, girls! I close my eyes in comfort knowing that I will melt away, I will die, but I will die THIN. The cigarette balances on my lower lip precariously like a hippopotamus on a tightrope; the glowing red cherry on the end holding all the promise this world never offered. Time stops. The faucet drips; drops. I wait until my lungs feel ready to burst. I exhale quickly, smoke exploding from my mouth and sending the cigarette spinning from my mouth to leave behind only a smile…